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Austin Pendleton

The Glass Menagerie

October 10, 2019

It is Ginger Grace as Amanda that is the crowning glory of this production.  Though slender and frail looking, she is still a powerful, if bothersome figure, memories of a golden southern belle past clashing with her poverty-stricken present.  Grace lives Amanda on the tiny Wild Project stage, making it seem large and teeming with life, although nothing really happens in "The Glass Menagerie," nothing that is except the dissolution of a family. [more]

Life Sucks

March 29, 2019

“Did you know that this play is called "Life Sucks"?” says a character in playwright Aaron Posner’s meta-theatrical Life Sucks. It’s a wild yet emotionally resonant work “sort of adapted from Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov.” Characters address the audience directly, they engage in sly wordplay, lollipops are consumed, overlapping dialogue is common and absurdism abounds in this free-form yet faithful treatment. [more]

Maverick

February 16, 2019

"The Whole World Was Watching: My Life Under the Media Microscope" is the autobiography of the South Carolina native journalist and television production figure Frank Beacham that was published in November 2018. A portion of it details his six-month involvement with Welles while they were attempting to produce a "King Lear" video project, aborted by his death at the age of 70. Instead of an artfully whimsical take, this adaptation gives us a lumpy Welles 101, ticking off familiar events laden with the tritely imparted theme of the artist versus cold Hollywood capitalism. [more]

Choir Boy

January 15, 2019

Now playing at the MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway, "Choir Boy" is set at The Charles R Drew Preparatory School for Boys, a Catholic academy for young men of color. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who shared the 2017 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight), the problem with the play is that Pharus’ colleagues and choir mates prove as generic as the student uniforms they all wear: blue blazers, white shirts, striped ties, and beige trousers. (The costume designer is David Zinn, who also did the scenery.) [more]

A 2018 Ten Best List

December 19, 2018

Darryl Reilly, Critic There were so many exceptional original plays among the 144 productions that [more]

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

October 1, 2018

What gives "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" its special cachet in the Williams canon is that its storyline and heroine called Dorothea very much suggest a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire set ten years earlier, when Blanche was still teaching and coping with life, though already needing liquor and pills to get her over her anxieties. Some enterprising theater group ought to schedule these two plays in repertory with the same actress in the leading role in each. [more]

Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III

August 7, 2018

That renowned man of the theater Austin Pendleton’s concept to adapt and combine portions of William Shakespeare’s "Henry VI, Part 3" with Richard III is intriguing and textually successful. The first 40 minutes give background of the English Civil War in the 1400’s, impart exposition, flesh out the motivations of Richard III, and depict his adoration of his father, the Duke of York. This mashup also gives a fresh spin to those only familiar with "Richard III" and there’s plenty of neat stabbings. [more]

Matt de Rogatis is Richard III

July 20, 2018

Street Theatre. “I’ll be delivering the longest soliloquy from any Shakespeare play,” Mr. de Rogatis explained about the substitution of Richard III’s celebrated opening line for a speech from Henry VI, Part 3 that comes 25 minutes in. “It makes total sense. It’s ten times better. It will show a more vulnerable and innocent Richard who perhaps only really loved his father. After his tragic death that sets him into a very unstable place. That soliloquy gives birth to the Richard III we all know. To compare it to Star Wars, that’s the moment Anakin becomes Darth Vader.” “I’m not like other actors. I don’t have headshots and I don’t audition. I control my own destiny,” said the burly, soft-spoken but animated New Jersey native about his unique New York City stage career. He took some years off from acting following becoming burnt out by a lack of career progress. The Kean University graduate who majored in psychology had little formal acting training by choice, developing his talent while onstage. Between his theater turns he sustains himself as a bartender. [more]

The Saintliness of Margery Kempe

July 19, 2018

The cast list in the program reads more like a medieval phone-directory--even if there were no phones in the Middle Ages--than it does a dramatis personae. And then there’s what happens to the characters during the course of the play which is as hard to say as it is to remember all of their names, let alone pronounce them. [more]

Dress of Fire

April 23, 2018

The epic myth of the Trojan War gets a fanciful treatment in playwright Nina Kethevan’s "Dress of Fire."  Lasting about 95 minutes, it still packs in a lot of incidents with 12 actors sometimes declaiming classical text often directly to the audience. The visually superb production makes for a rather pleasurable experience even if one can’t keep track of everything, grows restless listening to long soliloquies or is not so enamored of the genre. [more]

Delta in the Sky with Diamonds or Maybe Not

January 30, 2018

Classic movies such as "It’s a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Moonstruck" are citied in the play and author June Daniel White is clearly inspired by and seeks to emulate them in this fable. Those films resonate due to their appealing characters and well-crafted scenarios. "Delta in the Sky with Diamonds or Maybe Not"’s rambling plot is too ambitious as a stage play. [more]

The Traveling Lady

June 23, 2017

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Foote (1916-2009) was acclaimed for his cycle of plays that celebrated his native, rural Texas that included "The Trip to Bountiful."  In "The Traveling Lady," he characteristically depicts the human condition with everyday conflicts, regional dialogue, and richly delineated and lovingly rendered characters.  Those qualities make these vivid roles for actors. [more]

Luft Gangster

April 13, 2017

It is fascinating to watch Lowell Byers face his unfounded, country boy optimism as he is confronted with the brutal realities of his situation. That Byers’ Lou never completely succumbs, despite having to perform several vile acts, makes him the moral center of the play that pushes the idea of morality to the extremes. In addition, his exacting research, based on his cousin’s travails, pays off in the complexity of his writing. [more]

Consider the Lilies

January 19, 2017

As Paul Harold, a 60ish artist, Pendleton has a leading role that wonderfully showcases his idiosyncratic and considerable talents. With his unruly white hair, limber physicality and distinctive vocal twang, he mines all of the humor and depth of this fascinating character. Sharing the memory of when he met Pablo Picasso in his youth is a vivid moment. [more]

A Taste of Honey

September 22, 2016

Director Austin Pendleton made some choices which don’t help the now creaky play. Although Peter is described as ten years younger than Helen, Pendleton has cast the ever reliable Bradford Cover who unaccountably looks to be Helen’s age or older. This changes the dynamic of the play as with a younger man it would be obvious why Helen doesn’t think she has much hold over him. While the apartment is described as dirty with junk all over it, Harry Feiner’s set is spotlessly clean. This changes the environment a good deal and makes Jo’s life much less intolerable than described. In addition to the on-stage jazz combo which was also part of the original 1958 London production, Pendleton has several of the characters occasionally speak directly to the audience which makes this play more surreal than the kitchen sink milieu would imply. All of this makes the revival much less affecting than it might have been. [more]

A Day by the Sea

August 30, 2016

Now that we have been through all the angry play movements, literate writers like N.C. Hunter and Terence Rattigan are once again ripe for revival. While in his own time, Hunter was criticized for being too much like Chekhov that now seems a plus in the days of sloppy craftsmanship and plays that are really movie scenarios staged in the theater. "A Picture of Autumn" was obviously a post-war British variation on Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard," while Waters of the Moon resembles "The Sea Gull." "A Day by the Sea" owes a great deal to Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya" and includes the same basic cast of characters. [more]

ON THE TOWN with Chip Deffaa …. for July 5th, 2016

July 5, 2016

I’ve always liked Andrew Keenan-Bolger's work. He was a memorable child actor, playing leads on Broadway in shows like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Seussical," when he was around 13 or 14 years old.  I admired  his sunny, open-hearted work then.  And he's even more successful today (at age 31)  as an adult--not every child actor can make such a transition. He conveys the same sort of buoyant spirit on stage now as he did when I first saw him in those  shows he did so well as a youth.. (His whole family is talented.  He and his sisters, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Maggie Keenan-Bolger, are all making their contributions to the arts.) [more]

Nora

December 2, 2015

Pendleton has made some strange directorial choices. Characters appear on stage and stand silently long before their entrances. This is distracting as one wonders are they supposed to hear the conversations taking place. Many of the entrances and exits take place through the main aisle of the theater which breaks the fourth wall convention continually. He has also cast several actors as older than they are described so that this shifts the character relationships appreciably. The most famous scene in the play when Nora slams the door, possibly the most iconic moment in modern drama, is diluted considerably as there is no door for Nora to slam. Harry Feiner’s set design has the drawing room and bedroom visible side by side throughout the play which seems somewhat inappropriate for the 19th century setting. [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

Between Riverside and Crazy

February 16, 2015

Venerable and accomplished fixture of the theater, Austin Pendleton has perfectly directed the play. The characters and their relationships have all been minutely realized and the action well staged. Scenic designer Walt Spangler’s turntable set brilliantly renders the various rooms in Pops’ apartment as well as the building’s rooftop. Among the authentic looking details and props is a mournful Christmas tree with lights that subtly comments on the passage of time. [more]

Between Riverside and Crazy

August 1, 2014

This breakfast chat is in the opening of scene of Between Riverside and Crazy, by Stephen Adly Guirgis. In a series of plays that include Our Lady of 121st Street, Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train and The Motherf***er with the Hat, Mr. Guirgis has become known for affectionately dramatizing the lives of passionate, off beat, New York City characters with inimitably colorful dialogue. [more]